This past month, Warde TV featured a story on the new Innovation Lab, a converted computer lab in Fitts House. The idea for the new room came from Dr. Toni Jones, current Superintendent, and is rooted in the “Vision of A Graduate” movement, specifically the “Innovative Learning Initiative,” hence the name. The opening of the lab goes hand in hand with the Chromebook distribution at Warde, which took place in the fall, giving all students the opportunity to utilize much-needed technology in our tech-oriented society.
Ms. King is the Technology Integrator at Warde, which means that she essentially helps the extensive use of technology within the school run smoothly. This hefty job includes helping teachers use technology, and, currently, aiding with the use of the Innovation Lab. Describing the process of beginning to set up the room, she said, “At the end of last school year, we got the funding… Mr. Simonsen, the Housemaster in Fitts, organized a group of teachers and administrators to decide what we’d want to put in here. So, he dealt with most of the furniture and I chose a lot of the technology.”
Therefore, anything teachers may want their students to use for class is available to them. If a teacher would like to sign out the room for a period, they can sign up online and book an appointment slot on the Innovation Lab’s Google Calendar, which can be accessed using a fairfieldschools.net account. In addition, if they would like help using the technology with their class, teachers can email Ms. King and she will come by and show how to use all of the media.
Within the Innovation Lab, there is a plethora of new technology available for student use. To start off the collection, there are two large screens in the back of the room which are hooked up to computers, allowing students to present their work to a group. There is also the option to cast a Chromebook to the monitor instead, allowing another way to access files.
Another exciting aspect is that, “All the tables along the edges of the room are stationary but the rest of them are all on wheels,” Ms. King describes, “so the room can be reconfigured in any way that you want… it’s a flexible classroom.” In the center of the room, there are a group of desks that are on wheels that can be put into a circle or smaller groups as well as whiteboard tables where students can map out a project or write down their thoughts on a text they are analyzing, for example. Next, there are two Macs as well as two high-powered P.C.s that are connected to two printers, which gives students more of an opportunity to work online.
A piece of technology that is only in a couple classrooms at Warde is the Jamboard. Ms. King says that it is yet another place to collaborate with classmates because its purpose is similar to a whiteboard’s but the way it works is completely different. “A Jamboard saves it [your written work] all to your google drive,” Ms. King describes, “You can do multiple pages and you can bring in things [such as images] from the internet.” This feature is especially helpful for high schoolers doing their work in here because things that would previously have been written out on a whiteboard and then erased can now be saved and continued at a later time.
Neighboring the Jamboard, there is a large green screen, similar to the one used for video production classes and Warde TV. Now, students have a larger variety of options for how to complete a project or an assignment. Following the green screen, there is a 3D printer, which can be used for modeling and could even be utilized for a student’s project.
Last but not least, there is a “Huddle Cam” situated in the corner of the lab which can be used for video conferencing. What is especially cool about the camera is that, with a remote, a teacher can zoom in and out on kids’ faces while they are speaking, pan the room, and move it around. This makes video conferencing easier because the person on the receiving end of the call can see who specifically is talking to them in a large group of people. Ms. King recalls doing a video conference from Warde to Ludlowe, and hopes that in the future the Huddle Cam will be used to reach out to schools throughout the district, like the elementary schools.
When asked what aspect of the Innovation Lab she is most excited about, Ms. King responded by saying that it is “the collaboration piece and that this is a flexible room where you can do all kinds of different things… it’s cool to see that kind of collaboration and not have everyone sitting in rows in a classroom.” She believes, and rightfully so, that “when you walk into the lab, it just seems very inviting and brings out creativity and gets you thinking.”
The Vision of a Graduate idea that Warde is adopting includes aspects involving collaboration, critical thinking, and creativity, all of which the Innovation Lab covers, making it the perfect new addition to the Warde community.